Koichi Sugiyama (すぎやま こういち, Sugiyama Kōichi, April 11, 1931 – September 30, 2021) was a Japanese composer, conductor, and orchestrator. He was known for composing the music for the Dragon Quest franchise, along with several other video games, anime, film, and television shows. Classically trained, Sugiyama was considered a major inspiration for other Japanese game music composers and was active in composition and orchestration from the 1960s until his death from septic shock in 2021.
|Birth name||椙山 浩一|
|Born||April 11, 1931|
|Died||September 30, 2021 (aged 90)|
|Associated acts||Hayato Matsuo|
Sugiyama was also a council member of the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers, and Publishers (JASRAC), board member of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and honorary chairman of the Japanese Backgammon Society. Prior to his death, he was given the Order of the Rising Sun and was named a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government. He also engaged in activism outside of music, such as the denial of Japanese war crimes and the promotion of Japanese nationalism.
Early life and television careerEdit
Sugiyama was born in Tokyo, Japan, on April 11, 1931. While growing up, Sugiyama's home was filled with music, which ultimately inspired his passion. In high school, he began to write various small musical works. He attended the University of Tokyo and graduated with full honors in 1958. He then went into the reporting and entertainment sections of Nippon Cultural Broadcasting. He also joined Fuji TV as a director that same year. He left the station in 1965 to become a freelance director and had quit directing and concentrated solely on musical composition and orchestration by 1968.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Sugiyama composed for several musicals, commercials, pop artists, animated movies, and television shows, such as Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie, The Sea Prince and the Fire Child, and Cyborg 009. He also assisted Riichiro Manabe with the composition for Godzilla vs. Hedorah, composing the record single of the soundtrack and conducting for some of the tracks.
Dragon Quest and other video gamesEdit
Sugiyama's first contact with Enix was by a fan letter he wrote them regarding a PC shogi game in the early 1980s. After Enix's staff overcame the shock of receiving a handwritten postcard from a celebrity of Sugiyama's stature, they were so impressed by his depth of knowledge and appreciation of games that they decided to ask Sugiyama to create music for their games. Sugiyama started composing for the PC-8801, and was working for Enix at the time. His first project with the company was the 1985 game World Golf. In 1986, he composed for his first major project, Dragon Quest. His classical score for the game was considered revolutionary for console video game music.
Sugiyama was the one of the first video game composers to record with a live orchestra. In 1986, the CD, Dragon Quest I Symphonic Suite, was released, utilizing the London Philharmonic Orchestra to interpret Sugiyama's melodies. The soundtrack's eight melodies (Opening, Castle, Town, Field, Dungeon, Battle, Final Battle, and Ending) set the template for most role-playing video game soundtracks released since then, many of which have been organized in a similar manner.
In 1987, he composed for Dragon Quest II. Music from the first two Dragon Quest games was performed by one of first game music concerts, "Family Classic Concert". It was arranged and conducted by Sugiyama himself and was performed by the Tokyo String Music Combination Playing Group on August 20, 1987, at Suntory Hall in Tokyo. "Dragon Quest I Symphonic Suite" and "Dragon Quest II Symphonic Suite" were performed. He subsequently held eighteen of them all across Japan.
From 1987 to 1990, Sugiyama continued to compose for various other Enix games. In 1991, he introduced a series of video game music concerts, five in all, called the Orchestral Game Concerts, which were performed by the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra and Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. The performances included over eighteen different video game composers, such as Koji Kondo, Yoko Kanno, Nobuo Uematsu, Keiichi Suzuki, as well as Sugiyama himself. These concerts were held from 1991 to 1996; during this time, Sugiyama composed for other video games and arranged for some of them to be performed in the Orchestral Game Concerts.
In September 1995, Sugiyama composed the Dragon Quest Ballet. It premiered in 1996, and returned in 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2002. During those years, he also released several Dragon Quest Symphonic Suites. In late 2004, he finished and released the Dragon Quest VIII soundtrack. In 2005, Sugiyama was holding a series of concerts in Japan with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra with music from Dragon Quest VIII, as well as his classic compositions from the past. In August 2005, his music from Dragon Quest was performed live at the European Symphonic Game Music Concert, marking the first time that his music was performed by a live symphonic concert outside of Japan. Sugiyama also composed the score for Dragon Quest X and its expansions, as well as Dragon Quest XI.
Sugiyama's non-work related hobbies include photography, traveling, building model ships, collecting old cameras, and reading. He has opened a camera section on his website, and he also has his own record label "SUGI Label" which he started on June 23, 2004. Sugiyama also has completed other projects, such as the fanfares for the opening and closing of the gates in the Tokyo Race Track and the Nakayama Race Track. He was given the Order of the Rising Sun, 4th Class, by the Japanese government in 2018 before also being named a Person of Cultural Merit by them two years later. He died from septic shock at the age of 90 on September 30, 2021.
Throughout his work Sugiyama repeatedly used motifs to maintain a consistency and nostalgic quality in the different installments. Each of the Dragon Quest games include a nearly identical, upbeat theme track titled "Overture". Sugiyama's style of composition has been compared to late Baroque and early Classical period styles.
Political activities and beliefsEdit
Sugiyama was a Nanjing Massacre denialist, stating that the facts regarding it are "selective in nature". He was one of the signatories on "The Facts", a full-page ad published by The Washington Post on June 14, 2007, which was written by a number of Japanese politicians and academics in response to the passing of United States House of Representatives House Resolution 121, which sought an official apology from the Government of Japan regarding their involvement of using "comfort women", which were women who were used as sexual slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II. Sugiyama was also a board member of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.
In 2012, Sugiyama wrote an editorial saying that he thought Japan was in a state of "civil war between Japanese and anti-Japanese". Giving examples, he argued that the Japanese media portrayed acts of patriotism negatively, such as performing the National Anthem of Japan or raising the Japanese flag. In addition, he thought that the demands of the Japanese anti-nuclear movement, which grew following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, to immediately dismantle all nuclear energy facilities without offering any alternative solutions damaged the country's ability to defend itself.
In 2015, Sugiyama made an appearance on the Japanese Culture Channel Sakura television program Hi Izuru Kuni Yori where he was shown agreeing with views shared by Japanese politician Mio Sugita who said there was no need for LGBT education in Japanese schools, as well as dismissing concerns about high suicide rates among the community. Sugiyama added that the lack of children born from LGBT couples was an important topic to discuss, also suggesting that Japan was more empowering to women than South Korea. He later recanted his statement by saying that LGBT couples have existed throughout human history and he supported the use of governments to occasionally help them.
Film and televisionEdit
|1971||Return of Ultraman[a]|||
|1978||Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie|||
|Jigoku no Mushi|||
|1980||Space Runaway Ideon|||
|Cyborg 009: Legend of the Super Galaxy|||
|1981||The Sea Prince and the Fire Child|||
|1989||Godzilla vs. Biollante|||
|1991||Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai|||
|Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai - The Great Adventure of Dai|||
|1992||Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai - Avan's Disciples|||
|Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai - Six Great Generals|||
|2019||Dragon Quest: Your Story|||
- Opening theme only
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